Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Pagans | Tags: controversial topics, Creating Engaging Displays, Lindow Man, Lindow Man exhibitions, Museum Practice, offerings
During the consultation in advance of Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery it was suggested that the Museum include an offerings box so that those who wished could leave an offering to honour Lindow Man and the ancestors. The Museum felt it was important to respond positively to the public consultation and to facilitate the leaving of material of a more thoughtful or personal nature that some visitors might want to leave as a mark of respect. These, we were advised, might include aesthetically or spiritually significant objects such as artwork, carved wood or interesting stones. The offerings box created another opportunity for visitors to engage in a tangible way with the subject of human remains. The offerings box was located close to Lindow Man’s case next to a comments card board where visitors could also leave a personal message.
Visitors to prehistoric sites sometimes leave offerings such as flowers but these are of such an ephemeral nature that they often disappear or are disposed of before any record can be made. Such material left on sites is liable to be removed and disposed of as rubbish. However, the Puig des Molins Museum in Ibitha displays material from the religious site dedicated to the goddess Tanit at Culleram, Sant Joan de Labritja, in the north-eastern part of the island. Offerings in the Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9 are potentially of academic interest because so little work has been done in this area and it made the recording of such material important for future research.
Visitors left a wide range of material. By far the greatest single category of offering was coins. This may say something about the values of modern society in that coins appear to be the most appropriate way of making an offering. It can be compared with throwing coins in a fountain, which is well attested archaeologically. In one of the earlier Lindow Man exhibitions in 1987 or 1991 there was a fountain which gathered more money than the Museum donations box (pers.comm. Prof. John Prag)! The money was estimated to be of the value of £300. Leaving something in the offerings box was one way of showing respect regardless of one’s religious beliefs. For example, visitors to a Christian church sometimes light a candle or make the sign of the cross regardless of their religion.
Notable amongst the offerings were personal messages and poems dedicated to Lindow Man; personal accoutrements such as a mirror or a cigarette lighter; and leaves, seed heads and other organic items. It is surprising how many personal accessories associated with hair or personal decoration, such as hair grips, “bobbles” and head bands, as well as badges are present. Many of the objects are small, portable personal items of modest value, precisely the kind of thing one might pull out of one’s pocket or hand bag or remove from one’s clothing or person if the opportunity arose to make an impromptu offering. More thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing items such as a flints, feathers, a rock crystal and a personally inscribed pebble were also recorded. However, two gold rings and a silver ring of some financial value were put in the offerings box, and considerable thought, clearly, went into preparing one of the most fascinating items in the offerings box collection: a fired clay fertility goddess with exaggerated breasts, stomach and thighs. The stomach is presented as an open bowl and contains moss, conjuring up associations with birth, rebirth and Lindow Moss as a womb in which Lindow Man is incubated. At a time when Transition Wilmslow is working on a new vision for Lindow Moss intended to bring about the rebirth of the peat bog, perhaps this symbolic Earth goddess/Mother figure is relevant in a way we could not have anticipated at the time of the Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery exhibition. However, Some of the offerings may simply be rubbish and the ‘offerings’ list also includes bus and rail tickets, discarded receipts and sweet wrappers.
Readers of this blog may be interested to know that there will be a day-school called Lindow Moss: Origins and Future Prospects on 18th October 2014 and I have been invited to speak about Manchester Museum’s experience of running three temporary exhibitions about Lindow Man during the last 30 years. This will continue the work of raising the profile of Lindow Moss started at a public meeting about a ‘New Vision for Lindow Moss’ held in Wilmslow in April and furthered by the recent dawn commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man’s body. At the time of writing I am anticipating a guest blog written by someone who attended the ceremony so watch this space.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Poetry | Tags: archaeology and poetry, Bog bodies, Creating Engaging Displays, human remains, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, offerings
Recent contributions of poetry relating to Lindow Man seem to have struck a chord. Earlier this week I had a letter from the writer and artist, Eve Coxeter, who tells me she bumped into Joan Poulson and heard about the Lindow Man exhibition.
Like Joan, Eve was inspired by the bog body phenomenon to write a novel about Tollund Man. Eve visited Silkeborg some years ago to see his body and actually met P.V.Glob, who wrote the seminal work The Bog People, with its beautiful black and white photographs of bog bodies and associated discoveries.
Joan writes that Prof.Glob was elderly but still used his own plane to fly up to his farm near Silkebord every weekend. There were even burial mounds on his property, she says. Eve’s novel was intended to bring Torlund (the medieval name) to life.
Although it remains unpublished, the script can be accessed via Eve’s website, http://www.evecoxeter.com, and anyone interested can see the novel under ‘Novels:Torlund?’ . Eve has also kindly allowed me to post a copy of her poem on the Blog and reproduce her drawing and a sculpture of Tollund Man. So thanks to Eve for allowing me to share this:-
TORLUND THE MAN GOD
By Eve Coxeter
how sunken are you?
Dredged from the peat
where you have slept
through autumn mists.
fog sweep your soul
yet rise so whole
in face and foot
not man made flesh
but gods returned
your incomplete reality.
How past gives back
presents your face to man
in all but breath.
through humic acids
no words commune
fen sacrifice noosed
for a lost goddess
your sacred seed
germinating the archaic
silence in us all,
Convey, tell that which
human knowledge would compel
our hoped communication
divided from you at last
by the glass case
only of time.
Which reminds me that there is a copy of a novel ‘Lindow End’ by local writer Christine Pemberton in Susan Chadwick’s section of the Lindow Man exhibition. This contemporary thriller involves ancient bog body DNA and a test tube baby. I don’t want to give anything away but I haven’t been able to look Christine in the eye since I read her book.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Alan Partridge, archaeology and comedy, Bog bodies
Stephen Welsh kindly sent me a link to Mid Morning Matters, on U-Tube , by Steve Coogan’s comic persona, Alan Partridge, based around the idea of the 100 most famous Norfolk people. Horatio Nelson, Delia Smith and Egyptologist Howard Carter are in the list. Alan Partridge says Carter was responsible for Time Team (!) and a describes a conversation with Tony Robinson about re-animating a dead Saxon and finding out about what he had for his pudding before he was murdered with a blunt instrument in the year 5. It was only when Partridge mentioned a bog axe that I realised he must have been referring, in his characteristically muddled way, to Lindow Man! The whole thing is cringe inducing but hilarious. This is the link if anyone wants to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wo0klNPrDk&feature=channel . The bog axe piece is about 6 mins 30 secs in.
Filed under: Events, Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Archaeology Society, Lindow Man exhibitions
At the beginning of this term I met Andy Michaelas, a first year archaeology student at the University of Manchester. He was very keen to start up the students’ archaeology society again. He kindly asked me to give a talk to the students on the subject of Lindow Man.
Going over some of the earlier presentations I am reminded just how much material there is to talk about. If you look upon the exhibition as an exercise in public archaeology and you include the earlier exhibitions of 1987 and 1991 it is clear that the three ‘outings’ to Manchester provide a fascinating sequence of displays that shed light on changing attitudes, approaches and findings to and about Lindow Man.
Anyway the talk is in Mansfield Cooper in the University of Manchester tonight at 6pm Room 2.05 and I’m looking forward to it.
Filed under: Human remains, Lindow Man criticism, Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: contested remains, controversial topics, human remains, Lindow Man, repatriation, Tiffany Jenkins
A new book appeared that discusses the treatment of human remains in museums. Written by Tiffany Jenkins, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections criticizes museums for hiding their mummies and other human remains even though they are popular with the public for fear of offending pagans and other minority groups.
The Manchester Museum was mentioned several times in articles about the publication of the book appeared at the time in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. The Museum removed the head of Worsley Man from display and consulted with the public about the covering of Egyptian mummies a couple of years ago. Jenkins presents these and other examples involving the display of human remains as part of a radical change in policy by museums which, she says, have been unduly influenced by the claims of minority groups such as pagans.
Requests from indigenous communities in Australia, New Zealand and the Americas for the repatriation of human remains, together with public concern about the retention of organs in hospitals and pathology labs have contributed to the feeling that human remains deserve sensitive treatment. The Human Tissue Act, 2004 came into force to regulate their retention and storage.
Picking up on the perceived need to treat human remains sensitively many museums have written and implemented policies affecting material in their collections. Dr Jenkins says this is being driven by professional insecurity rather than public demand. Whilst it’s certainly true the majority of the public want human remains to continue to be displayed in museums there’s also a feeling that this should be done respectfully. There is a danger that museums’ attempts to consult with the public about how this can be achieved are dismissed as ‘political correctness’ or caving-in to pressure groups.
The process of consultation is sometimes mistaken for the end result – the trial covering, partial covering and display of uncovered mummies a few years ago was presented by local media as a final and unilateral decision on the part of the Museum, which was only overturned after public protest. I worked at Manchester Museum at the time and I understood this ‘covering up’ to have been part of a public consultation in order to see how visitors felt and which of the three different potential ways of displaying such remains visitors preferred. Such misunderstandings have made the free and open discussion about human remains much more difficult. As a university museum it is part of our role to stimulate debate, not only in the interests of students, but also to engage the public. If the act of stimulating debate about a current issue is mis-represented as ‘political correctness’ it effectively closes down discussion of that issue. I fear that it will inhibit museums from interacting with the public on this and other important issues.
What is being contested isn’t necessarily what happens to human remains but more inclusive methods of working by museums. That probably says more about the influence of old-fashioned ways of thinking about museum practice than it says about human remains per se.
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: Bog bodies, contested remains, controversial topics, human remains, Karin Sanders, Lindow Man, Lindow Man exhibitions, Lindow Moss, manchester museum body lindow, Museum Practice
I recently got in touch with Karin Sanders whose book Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination came out earlier in the year. She is Professor of Scandinavian at the university of California, Berkeley.
Some of the chapters cover similar topics to those of the Manchester Museum’s Lindow Man exhibition in 2008-9. There is a chapter on ethical treatment of bodies on display in the book.
What really caught my eye though was a photograph of a bog body display at Oldenbourg in Germany. The body is displayed in what looks like a peat bog section and it immediately reminded me of the use of MDF in the Lindow Man displays, which does have an organic, vegetation-like appearance from a distance. Karin kindly allowed me to reproduce this on the Blog to see what other people think.
It is unfortunate that because of the scheduling Karin’s book had effectively been completed before our exhibition but she was gracious enough to say that she would have used the exhibition as an example had we opened earlier. Meanwhile a short account of the exhibition has appeared in the latest UMAC Journal and we are regularly receive enquiries from students and museum professionals about our project.
Filed under: Criticism, Marketing | Tags: Bog bodies, Care bear, controversial topics, human remains, Lindow Man, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow, Museum Practice
Nearly 8 months after Lindow Man a Bog Body Mystery closed the Museum is still receiving comments about the exhibition. We receive between 500 and 1000 visits to the Blog every month. This is an email received by Stephen Devine (New Media and Photographic Officer) from Jean N.:
‘I have just visited the Lindow Man web page. How can you hold
a ‘responsibility to treat human remains with respect and dignity’
yet show an image of a ‘Care Bear’ underneath the heading ‘Lindow
Man’? It conveys the wrong message completely!’
This is Steve’s reply:-
Thank you for taking the time to contact us and apologies for my slow response.
Our human remains policy restricts the use of image of human remains which is one reason why you do not see an image of Lindow Man himself on our website.
Our Lindow Man exhibition presented a number of perspectives relating to memories of the discovery of Lindow Man. The Care Bear, selected by one of the members of the public involved in the exhibition, represents one of these.
The Care Bear was something that reminded the participants of that time in her life and of the discovery of Lindow Man.
This was one of a number of images used extensively in the exhibition and for the marketing of the exhibition. As such I feel that on our website the image represents the exhibition rather than Lindow Man himself.
While there was a number of different reactions to the use of the Care Bear there was never any intention of disrespect towards Lindow Man.
Personally I feel that connecting Lindow Man with viewpoints of the living and the focus on related objects from modern times as well as his own the exhibition showed a great deal of respect.
Many thanks, Steve
“A number of people have commented on the Care Bear. It might help you to appreciate why we put this in the exhibition if I explain about the consultation that we did over a year in advance of opening.
Recognizing that human remains are more of an emotive topic nowadays than the last time the Museum displayed Lindow Man back in 1987 and 1991, we invited a wide-ranging group of people to consult about the exhibition. The invitees included curators, archaeologists, students, members of Manchester City Council, members of the public and pagans. We put them in mixed groups and all five groups reported back that they wanted a respectful treatment of Lindow Man and for his interpretation to reflect the different theories about how and why he died.
We decided to implement those recommendations by interviewing a number of different people, each of whom had had experience of Lindow Man in one way or another. They included a forensic scientist, two peat diggers, a landscape archeologist, someone who lives at Lindow Moss, museum curators from the BM and Manchester Museum and a Pagan.
We asked the interviewees to recommend objects as exhibits for each section. Susan Chadwick, who lived at Lindow Moss when she was a little girl, told us about her Care Bear and how it reminded her of the time when Lindow Man was discovered. We thought that it was useful as a device to help people remember when Lindow Man was found and to think about what they were doing when he was discovered and reactions to the discovery.
The toy was intended to show visitors that the perspective on Lindow Man was that of someone who is now a mature adult but who was just a child in 1984. Susan’s testimony gives us a unique perspective: through her eyes we find out what it was like to find her favourite paths closed off by Police “Crime Scene investigation” tape or the feelings of local people when Lindow Man goes off to London. As this section was separate from the display of Lindow Man, I personally don’t think it was insensitive to show the Care Bear and it also helped young children to engage with some of the ideas.
Of course I accept that different people will have different ideas of what constitutes respect and sensitive treatment but we did consult and, in the context of the approach we took to the exhibition, I still personally feel that it was respectful. Human remains are such a contentious area that probably no two people are going to agree entirely. It was that kind of exhibition I’m afraid but we did try to obtain consensus through our consultation.”
Jean has replied:-
‘Thank you for your reply. My comment was in no way a criticism of the exhibition (which I have not seen) but the strange juxtaposition on the web-page. I am sure that the exhibition treated the remains with respect and I now appreciate that in 1984 the Care Bear might strike a chord with other children.
What struck me as strange, however, was the motif of the Care Bear directly underneath the title ‘Lindow Man’ on the web-page as if the Care Bear was a representation of Lindow Man. That surely wasn’t the intention. Maybe no-one else has made that assumption?
My present interest in Lindow Man is as a student on the new OU course Understanding Global Heritage although I was aware of him from previous studies. I come from a museum family and I write also as one who has been involved in museum display and interpretation in the Highlands on an occasional consultancy basis.’
Our thanks to Jean for these comments and allowing us to post the correspondence on the Lindow Man Blog.